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Words: Thomas Obediah Chisholm (b. July 29, 1866; d. Feb. 29, 1960)
Music: William James Kirkpatrick (b. Feb. 27, 1838; d. Sept. 20, 1921)
Note: Thomas Chisholm died on February 29th. But because there was no leap year in the year I did the Almanac, the note for this is found at the bottom of the posting for February 28th. John Byrom, author of the carol, Christians Awake! was born on February 29th, 1691. He’s there too.
Stanza CH-4, omitted below, reflects the holiness teaching of crisis sanctification, which I do not accept as biblical. Scripture reveals it to be a progressive development in our lives. Otherwise, there is much in this hymn to like and apply.
The word “imitation” seems to carry a lot of negative baggage. If you look it up in a dictionary you will see many aspects of the definition are not talking about a good thing.
To imitate may mean we impersonate someone we’re not, or try to counterfeit the real thing. A crook may pretend to be anything from an insurance salesman to a police officer. Or dishonest art dealers may offer inferior copies of masterpieces, claiming they are genuine. And if you don’t have thousands to spend on a Rolex watch, you can buy a knock-off for less than a hundred dollars.
Parrots parrot human speech, monkeys ape human conduct. Though their understanding of what their actions mean may be quite limited, and their true nature remains unchanged, it can be entertaining. But in many situations we decry human phoniness and fakery. Whether it’s done for malicious reasons or not, there’s too often an air of trickery and deceit in trying to simulate the real thing.
Having said these things, it is also true that imitation can be valid and quite worthwhile. The piano teacher who tells students to “Watch what I’m showing you, and do as I do,” is simply adding another teaching method to verbal instruction, by providing a living example of what is being taught.
In terms of Christian character and conduct, we have the perfect Pattern set before us in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. As He said to His disciples, “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done” (Jn. 13:15). There is a catch or a caveat to that, however. It can be explained by using two words found in Romans 12:2, which says, “Do not be conformed…but be transformed.”
Conformity comes about when a person adjusts his conduct to outside influences and pressures, in order to fit in. In terms of spiritual things, a person may act religious, and sound religious, but in fact it may be only skin deep. As the Lord Jesus said of some in His day, “These people…honour Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Matt. 15:8).
Transformation is quite different. It happens when one’s inner nature and capacity expresses itself in outward change. The pressure comes from the inside. A caterpillar doesn’t conform itself and sprout wings, in order to fit in with the butterflies it admires. It is transformed through an amazing process an all-wise Creator built into it.
When an individual trusts Christ as Saviour, the Bible says the Spirit of God comes to live within him. There He works to reproduce the character of Christ, called in Galatians “the fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23). The process of growth and development is described in Second Corinthians. We are “being transformed into the same image [the likeness of Christ] from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Cor. 3:18).
A true Christian doesn’t behave like one because he’s learned to be a good actor. His conduct is the outflow of his new inner nature. And he wants that transformation to take place. “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected,” says Paul, “but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Phil. 3:12).
Thomas Chisholm wrote a hymn about that, expressing his passionate desire to become more and more like Christ.
CH-1) O to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
O to be like Thee! O to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
CH-2) O to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
CH-3) O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
1) Can you identify something in your own life in which you’ve conformed in an unwise way to the world? (What will you do about it?)
2) What is one area the Lord is working on in your life to transform it?